Who Are Plaintiffs and Defendants in a Personal Injury Case?

In personal injury cases, there are two sides: the plaintiff and the defendant. 

The plaintiff is the party that brings the lawsuit in the first place. They argue with evidence and witness testimony that they have been injured by another party’s negligent or intentionally harmful conduct. The defendant might be a person, business, or some other entity. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff also asks for a certain amount of damages from that party or their insurance company. 

The party the plaintiff sues is known as the defendant. In a civil lawsuit, the defendant must count the plaintiff’s claims and offer proof as to why they were not at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries. 

Examples of Plaintiffs and Defendants in Personal Injury Cases

The field of personal injury law is fairly broad. There are a lot of different ways a personal injury case could arise – and a lot of different parties might be involved. Here’s a quick look at who the plaintiffs and defendants might be in some of the more common types of personal injury cases. 

Scenario 1: Jim is rear-ended by Jack at a red light in Houston. Jim suffers injuries that will rack up quite a bit of medical debt and keep him out of work for a while. He decides to file a lawsuit against Jack, alleging that the car accident was a consequence of Jack’s distracted driving practices. Jim is the plaintiff and Jack is the defendant.

Scenario 2: Alex stays at a hotel in Downtown while visiting the city on a business trip. As he’s walking through the lobby, he slips and falls. He files a premises liability lawsuit against the hotel. Alex is the plaintiff and the hotel is the defendant.

Scenario 3: Steve suffers a severe burn while using a piece of heavy machinery at work. His employer subscribes to a workers’ compensation insurance policy, so he’s able to recover some compensation for his injuries. However, he determines that the amount of money he’ll be able to obtain from the workers’ compensation policy isn’t enough to cover the full cost of his injury, nor will it account for his suffering. So, he files a product liability lawsuit against the company that manufactured the defective equipment. Steve is the plaintiff and the manufacturer is the defendant. 

Scenario 4: Alice suffers some severe injuries in a truck accident that put her at serious risk of developing blood clots. So, her doctor suggests that Alice would be a good candidate for an IVC filter. Alice trusts her doctor and agrees to have the medical device implanted. The device fails, and a piece of the filter breaks off – putting her health in immediate danger. Alice decides to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against her doctor and a product liability claim against the company that made the defective medical device. Here, Alice is the plaintiff, while both the physician and medical device manufacturer are defendants.

Because civil lawsuits can be quite complex and have many rules governing their filings and procedures, it is common for both the plaintiff and the defendant to hire lawyers to represent them.

Steps in a Civil Lawsuit

A civil lawsuit might actually begin before the plaintiff files suit. In some cases, with the help of their lawyers, an individual injured due to another person’s negligence might send a settlement demand letter. In the letter, the injured party will lay out their case and ask for damages to compensate for everything from medical bills to pain and suffering.

If the other party agrees to pay or a settlement for another sum of money is negotiated, trial can be avoided. However, if the two sides can’t reach an agreement, the plaintiff can file a lawsuit and begin the civil litigation process.

Other steps in a civil lawsuit include:

  • Discovery: with discovery, both sides in a lawsuit have the chance to see the evidence and claims of the other side. In addition to making for a smoother, faster trial, discovery can also help to facilitate a settlement.
  • Pre-trial conference: before every civil trial there is a pre-trial conference. The purpose of a pre-trial conference is to get all parties together in the presence of the presiding judge to see if any progress has been made and if a settlement is possible.
  • Trial: At trial, both sides pick a jury and then the plaintiff argues their case, calling witnesses to testify and submitting evidence for the jury to consider. The defense also has the opportunity to question the plaintiff’s witnesses and call their own. 
  • Verdict: After hearing the opening and closing statements of both sides and weighing the evidence, the jury will reach a verdict. 
  • Appeal: After a verdict, if the defendant was ordered to pay a certain amount of money to the plaintiff, he or she can appeal the decision. The appeal process can take years to play itself out.

While every civil lawsuit is different, they can all be lengthy and can take years to finally be resolved. It is also worth noting that a settlement is possible at any step in the process, even after a verdict. 

Because the appeal process can take so long to work itself out, a plaintiff might be willing to settle with a defendant for less than the figure outlined in the verdict so as to be able to get their money more quickly. 

What to Do if You Have Been Injured Due to Another Party’s Negligence

If you have been injured due to another party’s negligence, you should contact a skilled personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. A good lawyer is crucial to helping you form your case and strategy. 

Your lawyer will help you craft a compelling settlement demand letter and then file suit on your behalf should the other party be unwilling to meet your demands. If the other party is still not cooperating, a qualified lawyer will be able to take your case all the way through trial and the appeals process making sure you are skillfully represented every step of the way.